My former pastor made a statement one Sunday morning that I tend to overlook, but when I hear those words again I regain perspective and then the day before me becomes an adventure instead of the grueling gauntlet of time that all men must run. You’re nodding your head, you understand, at least the “gauntlet” part any way.
He said that “when we remember that life is a battleground, instead of a playground, then life makes sense.” I like that.
We all know we have a common enemy; the devil. None of us could count how many teachings we’ve heard concerning him and his methods of undermining our confidence in the Lord. In fact, the numbers of teachings about our adversary are incalculable, so much so that it has spilled out into the streets and even those who do not share our beliefs are aware of him on some level.
Without diminishing (or magnifying) Satan’s role in our lives, there is however one other adversary lurking about. The reason this other one is even harder to detect is because most of us see this one in the mirror. None of us suspect that this person looking back at us is a threat. Few of us are afraid of the person in the mirror. Their morning breath, toothpaste drool hanging like an icicle from their lips and in desperate need of soap and water is hardly a threat. It's 6:30 a.m., so we are understanding of them.
We have Gillette, Crest, Dove and Maybelline to thank for raising the person in the mirror from the grave. From Lazarus to King David (or Queen Esther) in just a few minutes and we feel as if we are ready to take on the world. Well, we look like we are anyway.
On our way to this or that appointment or job we glance up at the visor to reread the verse we paper clipped there. Determined to at least memorize 3 verses this year, which would nearly double last year’s accomplishments, we read for the 40th time (and that doesn’t count the weekend) the words of one of the most widely known verses in all of scripture.
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”
Living in between Tampa and Orlando as I do, I can’t think of any other verse that best describes what condition one’s heart should be in for the commute out there on I-4. I have to trust in the Lord, because most of the people out there don’t have any understanding of public safety, they won’t acknowledge they are changing lanes and their paths are from one side of the interstate to the other. “Lord, thank you for directing my path. Now would you direct theirs?” I pray.
I marvel that even those who don’t know the Lord at least know one verse. Their ability to operate a motor vehicle lets me know which verse is clipped on their visor. It’s found in Acts 27:15.
“And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.”
I’m further amazed that “women drivers” are mentioned in the bible!
Maybe it’s just me, but my faith in God is challenged whenever I see someone who has a cell phone in one hand, eyeliner in the other, one foot pressing down hard on the gas pedal while the other one is pressing down even harder on the steering wheel. I wish the man in the car would stop filling out life insurance forms and drive instead, but the fear in his eyes tell me he’s just a little distracted.
Although some of you find this amusing, (and it would be even more amusing if it weren’t so true) there’s not so much amusement when it’s seen in the life of folks who have been called to “walk by faith and not by sight.”
Instead, most of us live our lives as if we are either in control or hoping to regain control. Like a distracted motorist on I-4 we are determined to “get there” and call 911 later to report the 5 car pile up that we caused an hour ago back at mile marker 25.
Driven by “common sense” we map out our lives, predictable as they are, and still there is a longing within us for adventure. Anything besides the Monday through Friday thing is considered adventuresome to most of us. Saturday and Sunday are “our days”, it’s our family time and it’s all we have to break up the monotony.
We’ve put in our 867 hours this week, at least that’s how it feels, and now it’s time for something, anything. An overdose of “normal” nearly kills us, so we run to the ER of “adventure” looking for some relief.
Take the words of Proverbs 3:5 and paper clip them to your heart. Fasten them to the visor of your mind as you make your way through this life, but now do it with the idea of just how adventurous the life of the believer is meant to be lived.
There are many ideas, beliefs, thoughts and notions that are rattling around our heads. If we could shake our heads hard enough for someone to actually hear what goes on in there, it would sound like a junk truck on a bumpy road. We have some beliefs that are just that, junk.
For some odd reason we often refer to our jobs as “making a living.” Truth be known, most of us are earning money, but it’s anything but living. Deep down in your own heart there is that longing for “more” and if you’ll be honest with yourself, it’s not a longing for more money. The “been there, done that” of earned income has left you feeling like junk.
There has to be more to this abundant life than this. But where is it, who can tell me and how do I get it? Part of the answer to the question is right there in Proverbs 3. Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” who wanted to go home, the answer to her “prayer” was right there with her all the time.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” are the Ruby Slippers of the redeemed. The Yellow Brick road of theology can only take you so far, but it will never take you home. We watch the Scarecrow get a brain, the Tinman get a heart and the Cowardly Lion gets up the nerve and even though they are content to stay in the City of Oz, we still say “there’s no place like home.” But none of us can get there.
What is it that keeps us dreadfully tethered to the earth when our hearts are longing for the stars? Why do we only watch the Space Shuttle launch when we want to go there ourselves? With morbid fascination we tune into the Hollywood Biz to see if they’ve found what we are looking for. The lottery dares us to believe, so we cast our lots hoping to finance a God given dream. Only to find ourselves right where we were when we left.
If you can easily understand what you’ve just read then it may be time for you to only begin to find the “more” you’ve been looking for. Some of you have almost given up on the “more” of your Christian life and have accepted that you may only smile on weekends and holidays. Others of you have nearly succeeded in drowning the “still small voice” that bids you to “come.” “Walking on water was an adventure, but it’s one I’ll never realize in my life.” That’s junk!
Imagine what it must have been like to watch as a 17 year old boy ran. Ran to the giant who threatened to take his head off and feed it to the vultures if he took another step. He deliberately closed the distance between himself and a man who held a spear in his hand, while he held only a rock and sling in his. One step led to another and then another and there beat in the breast of that lad the heart of God.
Take to heart what it must have been like to calmly stand beside the shore of the Red Sea. Surrounded by thousands of frightened people and pursued by an enemy bent on nothing less than your death, but there beat within Moses chest the heart of our Father and he stood. He not only stood, he stood still. Still within, though everything without was anything but calm.
Or the famous night, when the storm raged all around the little boat and an angry sea rose to accept the offering of the lives of those 12 men. See the waves rising up, taking a life of its own so they could take the life of those brothers. Hear the howling wind breathing certain death in their ears if they didn’t turn back. Watch one man, if only for a moment, throw off all restraint and dare to believe. Common sense drowned the moment his sandaled foot touched the surface of the sea and in that same instant faith swam.
Picture if you can what it was like to take a Friend to the grave of one you loved. Imagine what would go through your troubled mind and broken heart when your Friend told you to “roll away the stone.” The stench of the rotten corpse would assault sense and sensibility. Buried in a common grave, but what you just heard doesn’t make any sense. But the one who told you to do this has His finger on the pulse of our God.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” is the door to the beginning of the life we’ve been called to live. It’s not just a nice sounding dream, it’s a promise. If you’re still longing for “more” then keep reading.
As a much younger man I’ve had some adventures. Undertakings that some consider foolish and they’d reach for the phone to call the undertaker. I’m not about to tell you these things so you’ll think more highly of me. But, I will tell you so that you’ll throw out the garbage that has made you believe that the adventures of David, Moses and Peter were reserved for them, but don’t apply to us who are living hundreds of years later in a more modern age. Now, that’s junk!
There came a time in my life when I had to choose between “common sense” and His voice. Everything I’d come to accept as being “real life” came face to face with Life Himself and I had to choose. I could stay in the boat of my beliefs and still be loved or I could get out of the boat of “common sense” and not only be loved, but then I’d know how Peter must have felt that night so long ago.
Hard times had cornered my family and me in St. Augustine, Florida. The house we’d been given rent free was overrun with enormous spiders and not just that, but the roof leaked so badly that when it rained my wife and I, along with our two daughters were confined to the back bedroom. It was the room that took the fewest pots and pans to catch the rain, so we could at least move around.
To make matters worse, construction in the area came to an unexpected halt and it wasn’t long before the demands of life outran my ability to keep up. On top of all this, I could no longer leave my loved ones in a home shared by those insects, so we’d moved into an efficiency apartment closer to town and closer to the job site. When the work ended, life started to get stormy. The waves of hungry children lapped at the sides of our boat and the winds of “there’s no more work” howled in my fearful soul.
Jacksonville, Florida being a much larger city seemed to be the “will of the Lord” for us. There had to be some kind of work for me there and common sense told me that it was best to spend the day in Jacksonville. I reasoned that we may as well make it a “family day” too, so we loaded our VW van and headed north.
At the intersection of I-95 and I-10 I had the notion to turn the van to the west. My family and I had lived the majority of our days in southern Oregon and it was only by radical circumstance that we were in Florida in the first place. We didn’t really want to be there, we just were. We longed for home. There’s no place like home.
Even before I could say what was on my mind, my wife gave me that look. The one that tells you “there’s something going on and you’d better listen” look.
“We are supposed to go back to Oregon.” The certainty in her voice was alarming. Considering the state of our lives at that time, this was the last thing I expected to hear from her. It may have crossed my mind too, but I quickly dismissed it as being nonsense. Common sense dictated that we were in no financial position to drive more than 100 miles, much less 3,500.
“Did the Lord tell you that?” As if I expected her to conjure up such an insane idea on her own. “I’ve been thinking the same thing.”
“Yes,” she replied and her words were the calmest I’d heard. The winds of adversity had drowned out words of hope inside of me and despair was closing in fast.
Then, being the spiritual giant that I am, I asked the stupidest question I could come up with at the time, I responded, “Does the Lord know we only have one dollar to our name, no home and no work?”
My own unbelief intercepted my unwillingness to believe as I heard myself say those words. I was overwhelmed when I realized that although I quoted Proverbs 3:5 countless times, I didn’t really believe them. I had a choice to make and I had just minutes to make it.
The belief that “God gave you a brain, use it” were like a muzzle. The Spirit had been whispering in my heart to go home but my idea of what faith is silenced Him, but only to me. She said what I’d heard, but I didn’t hear it the way she did. Although I’d considered it, almost as quickly as I’d thought it, I dismissed the idea.
Does He reign? Yes, and He overruled my beliefs and the adventure was about to begin.
During the 11 days it took to drive from Florida to Oregon I saw Him and I heard Him. I saw Him in a lady, a complete stranger, a sister I’d never known. She met us at an intersection and handed me $40.00. “The Lord told me to meet you here and to give you this” she said.
I saw Him when we were “stranded” in Texas. He wore a policeman’s uniform and escorted us to the Family mission. The day and a half we had to stay there opened a door of ministry that I’d never have known if we hadn’t been “stranded.” I talked to so many people that weekend about Jesus Christ and prayed with many of them. I saw Him in me, rekindling the love of God they thought they’d sinned their way out of.
I heard Him in Anaheim, California as we drove through town and He said, “At the next street, turn right. Go two blocks and turn right.” At the end of our side trip I saw a house being remodeled. The owner marveled when I asked him for a day or two of work. His only employee had quit on him just that morning and he didn’t know what he was going to do.
Do these experiences make me something? Nope. If anything they’ve revealed, (if only to me) what an unbelieving coward I can be when left to myself. A loved coward, but a coward nonetheless. But, after those 11 days, I can tell you Proverbs 3:5 means more to me than it ever did.
“Common sense” may have its place, but not in the life of people who long for more. If you have the deep, deep longing then consider this; it may be the Lord whispering something to you that He wants you to see.
Make no mistake though; it’s not something He wants you to see. It’s Someone.
On our way to the west coast He never intended we see “things.” His desire, then, as it is now, is that we see Him. There wasn’t some fantastic ministry to partner with at the end of the road. He didn’t author this experience so that I’d be qualified for any position in some church. That may make Him a teacher, but it will never make Him a Friend.
Jesus said “I am the way” and if I’d listened to common sense, I’d agree with Him, but not the way I do now.
Getting out of a boat in the middle of a storm isn’t meant for the pew or pulpit. It’s your birthright, but don’t exchange it for common sense. Pulpit and pew may say it, but His word to “come” won’t mean a thing if you just sit.
We chastise Peter for his lack of faith. I used to share that particular perspective myself. Not any more. He may have “failed” and he may have sunk, but that man knew some things about the Savior that the 11 would never know. Even underwater, Peter was closer to Jesus than the rest of them. So, who really failed? Failing faith is better than no faith at all, especially the kind of faith that trusts common sense more than God.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” Are wonderful words for the visor, but they’ll mean even more if you paper clip them to your boat.
You can’t steer a parked car and you can’t sail a boat while tied to the dock. In the same way the Lord can’t and won’t direct your path if you’re not moving and not just moving, but moving toward Him.
Some of you will dare to believe this and even though you’ll fail and some people will think you’re “all wet”, there will be some things you know about Jesus Christ that your critics will never know and they’ll never understand. You’ll be closer, not better, but closer nonetheless.
Running toward giants, standing by an ocean when the enemy is closing in, rolling away a stone to expose a corpse, walking on an angry sea or driving from Florida to Oregon on a dollar may not be “common”, but I look back now and it sure makes sense.
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